Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 7

I mentioned in my last post, Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 6, that Application, File and Backup issues are somewhat complicated, but that your technology savvy employees need to be square in the middle of your business operations to help facilitate your decisions. They can lift the knowledge and skills of everyone around them.

You will most certainly need them to help with the most effective plan to deal with printing, scanning and faxing. In the past, printing, scanning and faxing would have been three distinct topics each with unique hardware. Best practice was to keep all three apart. Network printing and modern advances in multi function machines coupled with fax and email integration changed the landscape.

It is now possible to go to one of your local discount merchants and procure a name brand multi function color printer, scanner and fax device for well under $100. For not much more than that, one can get an incredible network multi function machine. Setup is as easy as plug and play with the installation and configuration CD that comes with the device.

Now there’s a better way to fax. eFax makes it possible to use your existing email account to send and receive faxes. You can try eFax free or for a reasonable monthly charge, you can do some serious faxing from your laptop!

As easy as all this sounds, you need to be more careful that ever to fit your printing, scanning and faxing needs into your systems plan and emphatically deploy and enforce your plan. Don’t get me wrong here, the scenario above might make a good default position; however, careful planning will save you much money in the long run. The most likely position combines both good planning and inexpensive off the shelf equipment.

The best example of this would be the doctor’s office scenario. A typical doctor’s office can make a strong business case for scanning plastic insurance cards for each patient that comes to the office. That single requirement defines a duplex color scanner that will take a plastic card from the top and discharge it through the bottom. There is a good chance that you will not find that particular scanner at your local discount retail store. The scanner you might find there will give you all kinds of problems with plastic cards, thus, impacting the productivity of your office staff.

So, once more I must refer to our three planning guidelines:

1 – Make the business case for the initiative – state emphatically YES or NO and the associated company policies and procedures for use – For example, you might see these statements about a doctor’s office scanning deployment. “Scanning insurance cards will increase the productivity of our office staff, so YES I will deploy desktop severe service scanners for the sole purpose of scanning insurance cards. Only insurance cards will be scanned by office staff using our desktop scanners.”

2 – Define the scope of the initiative – “I will deploy one severe service desktop scanner per staff member computer workstation. I will train each staff member to use their scanner for insurance card scanning only.”

3 – Commit the resources dedicated to the initiative – “I will spend $250 per staff member workstation to install sever service desktop scanners. I will spend a total of $500 for one day of on site training of all staff members.”

In the example of the doctor’s office, the plan articulates a clear vision about scanning insurance cards, without impacting other potential scanning initiatives. The insurance cards will get scanned!

So, review your printing, scanning and faxing needs carefully, breaking the needs into definable, deployable initiatives. If you find yourself using inexpensive off the shelf components, stick with one brand and try to get as much warranty as possible. Then replacement or repair becomes much less of a chore.

If you find that your printing, scanning and faxing initiatives require expensive value added reseller equipment, negotiate favorable long term hardware support and service contracts, including hot spares to prevent the impact of broken equipment and subsequent down time.

No matter what equipment your initiatives require, think about two issues.

1 – Do I have two similar pieces of hardware in place in the event one breaks?

2 – Can I live with stopped production if I have only one piece of equipment in place?

I’ve seen small offices completely without any printing capability because the office depended on a multi function copier – printer and the device was out of service for several days. Play your plan smart and you will never face that problem.

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